For couples expecting to walk down the aisle in 2020, it’s been a tumultuous year, as the coronavirus has scuppered most long-awaited plans.
However, the government did provide some relief when it announced in June that wedding ceremonies could go ahead from 4 July, with up to 30 guests.
Unfortunately the news wasn’t as promising for wedding receptions. Although they were initially given the green light to go ahead from 1 August, the prime minister Boris Johnson made a U-turn on the government’s decision, postponing them until 15 August at the earliest.
The government confirmed this week that wedding receptions can go ahead from this Saturday, but only in the form of a sit-down meal with up to 30 guests, in a Covid-secure venue.
The new guidance will not apply in areas such as Greater Manchester and Preston, where local lockdown measures have been imposed.
With strict rules in place, it’s likely that you’ll be organising the decoration of your own wedding reception table and providing the embellishments for the sit-down meal. But given the smaller numbers, it might be easier than you think.
Party architect, Johnny Roxburgh, tells The Independent: “While the 30 guest limit may be disappointing, the reduced numbers will for some couples be an opportunity to spend more lavishly on fewer people.”
If you’re going solo on the wedding table design, make sure you keep the possibility of delivery delays in mind for items you buy online.
Claire Berry, a wedding planner and founder of design agency Perfect Cartel, says: “Allow extra delivery time for anything ordered online due to enhanced safety measures, and if you can, order at least two more of anything than you think you need and count everything twice.”
To help you create a beautiful setting for your guests and celebrate in style on your big day, even if it wasn’t the original party you had imagined, we’ve consulted wedding planners who have shared their tips on making the day as special as possible.
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Table of Contents
Roxburgh recommends having long tables to seat your guests at: “I think they’re such a good way to create an intimate atmosphere, while at the same time complying with social distancing,” he says.
A beautiful tablecloth is a perfect base for your table setting, you can either use it to add colour and vibrance or keep it simple with a plain white option that you can build upon with flatware and glassware.
This cotton tablecloth (H&M, £8.99) is an inexpensive find that can be machine washed should any wine be split. The simple design offers the ideal canvas to style with other decorations, based on your chosen colour palette.
For a hint of foliage, this floral linen table cloth (Zara Home, £29.99) and matching napkins (Zara Home, £9.99) feature a delicate pattern that won’t overwhelm your table.
Suited to six to eight guests and made from lightweight cotton, it’s simple but still smart.
Lamps and candles
According to Roxburgh, candles and battery-operated lamps will create a magical, intimate atmosphere.
“We often use these lamps on long tables as there is no need for plugs and miles of cabling,” he says.
This horse lantern copper table lamp (Dunelm, £29) adds a rustic feel, and you won’t need many to set the scene.
It can double up as a minimal centrepiece too. Or opt for classic pillar candle-style lighting, such as these Lights4Fun truglow grey ombre LED pillar candles (Amazon, £28.99) which require two AA batteries per candle, and have a six-hour timer.
Mimicking a real flame without the fire risk or melting wax, they’re a perfect finishing touch to your decor.
If you’re looking for something more contemporary, tap into the quirky candlestick holder trend that’s all over Instagram right now. They offer an easy way of adding colour and character to a table.
You can buy candlesticks in bundles too, which is ideal for group events. For a uniform shade of lilac, try this pack of lilac beeswax candles (Matilda Goad, £42).
Or for all the colours of the rainbow, these Ester & Erik blush pink candles set of 4 (Mrs, Alive, £14) will do the trick.
If you decide they are too pretty to burn, and we wouldn’t blame you, simply leave them unlit for decorative purposes instead and watch the compliments roll in from your guests.
In our guide to candlestick holders, we loved these glass boho spice orange candle holders (Talking Tables, £14).
While glass candle holders have long existed, colourful styles are fast becoming our favourite designs as they add flair without being so bold they’ll overwhelm a patterned tablecloth, napkins or glassware.
While it can be tempting, be careful not to overwhelm a table by adding too many embellishments, ad this could make guests feel cramped while they enjoy speeches and tuck into food.
Roxburgh recommends transforming the space with tall banks of glorious flowers, trees and plants, which can then end up in your garden as an annual memory of your wedding.
“Long lush table centres are so effective – make sure they are not too tall so that guests can talk over them.”
Dried flower bunches are one option if you’re looking for a fun floral centrepiece that results in less waste. As they last longer (two to three years), you can decorate your home with them once the reception is over.
Try the Shida Loulou preserved flowers (Shida, £35) which impressed us in our IndyBest review of the best dried blooms. They are perfect if you have neutral colour palette of nude, beige, browns and earthy green shades.
For a real statement, embrace neon pops of colour and fluffy stems with this Fluroresse sashay bouquet (Fluroresse, from £30) that’s unashamedly bold. Keep your tableware to a minimum and let these bunches doing the talking as a standout addition that will look amazing in photos.
Once you’re chosen your flowers, Roxburgh suggests filling glass containers to run the length of the table and intersperse with candles.
“At the last minute scatter pretty petals on the table,” he says, a job which your bridesmaids could do.
Creating the perfect wedding reception table is all about layering beautiful pieces, and now you’ve got the decorations down, it’s time to talk dinnerware.
In our guide to tablescaping, Rosanna Falconer, a brand consultant and co-founder of fashion networking platform FashMash, recommended Maison Margaux LTD, a luxury tableware shop that allows you to rent pieces that would be very costly to buy outright.
From dinner sets, glassware, accessories and flatware, all you need to do is select a date, detail how many people you’re serving and submit an enquiry for what pieces are available to borrow.
Our favourite style is this L’objet perlée gold (Maison Margaux LTD, £33.85 per item), with beautiful hand-painted gold detailing and pearls around the edge of each porcelain plate.
It’s pricier than buying a set on the high street but will make your reception special, particularly for one-off occasions like your wedding reception.
Dress up place settings and serviettes with napkin rings, which you can label with guests names.
This gold metal napkin holder (Zara, £17.99) is a simple way to keep the table neat and tidy for when the food arrives, plus will prevent any stained suits.
Roxburgh also recommends mixing china and glass for an eclectic mix which will make the table look less catered.
“A bit of creativity can result in a great look and if you mix the things you buy with hired items, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. You will also be able to reuse the bought items for smaller parties later,” he says.
When tucking into your feast, this 16-piece set of Noya matte metallic cutlery (Sklum, £38.73) adds an air of decadence and is also available in pink gold and silver too.
They’re an easy way to add an expensive feel while still keeping costs down.
If you’d prefer a more traditional feel, choose this 16-piece set by Vintage Ivory Cutlery, (John Lewis & Partners, £80).
The stainless steel set will add a touch of glamour, and the classic design will serve as a reminder of your marital commitment for years to come.
Berry recommends making a humorous nod to the timing with a small, bespoke hand sanitiser to the side of each table setting, decanted into a beautiful bottle.
For a ready-made bottle, we love Aesop’s resurrection rinse-free hand wash (Aesop, £7), as it’s aesthetically pleasing enough not do distract from your table setting but will also help guests stay safe.
With a citrussy and woody scent, this moisturising formula will help your guests feel at ease while celebrating in such unusual times.
If you don’t want to splash out on one bottle per guest, decant some hand sanitiser into a few of these 100ml glass pump bottles (EcoVibe, £2.49).
Cutting down on your single-use plastic consumption, the glass bottle and plastic-free pump will look chic on your table and with a handy label maker, you can customise it with guest names or the date.
For more inspiration, read our tablescaping guide
Tablescaping: How to create a beautiful dinner setting